All for One: To Arms!

 “And now you are assembled, gentlemen,” said D’Artagnan, “permit me to offer you my apologies.

At this word apologies, a cloud passed over the brow of Athos, a haughty smile curled the lip of Porthos, and a negative sign was the reply of Aramis.

“You do not understand me, gentlemen,” said D’Artagnan, throwing up his head, the sharp and bold lines of which were at the moment gilded by a bright ray of the sun. “I asked to be excused in case I should not be able to discharge my debt to all three; for Monsieur Athos has the right to kill me first, which I must abate your valor in your own estimation, Monsieur Porthos, and render yours almost null, Monsieur Aramis. And now, gentlemen, I repeat, excuse me, but on that account only, and–on guard!”

At these words, with the most gallant air possible, D’Artagnan drew his sword.

The blood had mounted to the head of D’Artagnan, and at that moment he would have drawn his sword against all the Musketeers in the kingdom as willingly as he now did against Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

This famous scene, with D’Artagnan slated to duel each of the three musketeers, between the hours of 12 and 2, each duel arranged purely by chance, over trifles of honour and embarrassment, each, so far as the musketeers knew, without the knowledge of the others. Fiery blood, indeed!

What does it show us? From one point of view it shows us a parcel of thin-skinned, hot-blooded, ne’er-do-wells who’d as soon spit you on their rapier as bid you good day, but on the other hand, it shows us a group of men, dedicated to an ideal beyond all else, loyal servants of a code as incomprehensible to many of their own period as it must be impenetrable to most people of ours, and for whom death, and the cheating of death were both compelling and insignificant at the same time. These men… these men, are destined for adventure, great acts, and difficult choices.

“Come, gentlemen, have you decided?” cried Jussac for the third time.

“It is done, gentlemen,” said Athos.

“And what is your choice?” asked Jussac.

“We are about to have the honor of charging you,” replied Aramis, lifting his hat with one hand and drawing his sword with the other.

“Ah! You resist, do you?” cried Jussac.

“S’blood; does that astonish you?”Death is sometimes, a little funny

It also shows us a world wherein fighting was a fact of daily life, where enemies, curious alliances, shifting alliances, intrigues, and the spectre of war were a constant pigment in the colours of a man. It shows us the by-product of an age where the technology and skill to harm, far outstipped the ways and means of repairing that harm, but where the fires of belief and loyalty burned so strongly that men would wage bloody war regardless. Those who lived to fight again and again, inured to the thought and fear of death, became as unconcerned about laying down their lives in a just fight as they were about ordering the next round, or bedding the next comely wench.

And the nine combatants rushed upon each other with a fury which however did not exclude a certain degree of method.

Athos fixed upon a certain Cahusac, a favorite of the cardinal’s. Porthos had Bicarat, and Aramis found himself opposed to two adversaries. As to D’Artagnan, he sprang toward Jussac himself.

The heart of the young Gascon beat as if it would burst through his side–not from fear, God he thanked, he had not the shade of it, but with emulation; he fought like a furious tiger, turning ten times round his adversary, and changing his ground and his guard twenty times. Jussac was, as was then said, a fine blade, and had had much practice; nevertheless it required all his skill to defend himself against an adversary who, active and energetic, departed every instant from received rules, attacking him on all sides at once, and yet parrying like a man who had the greatest respect for his own epidermis.

This contest at length exhausted Jussac’s patience. Furious at being held in check by one whom he had considered a boy, he became warm and began to make mistakes. D’Artagnan, who though wanting in practice had a sound theory, redoubled his agility. Jussac, anxious to put an end to this, springing forward, aimed a terrible thrust at his adversary, but the latter parried it; and while Jussac was recovering himself, glided like a serpent beneath his blade, and passed his sword through his body. Jussac fell like a dead mass.

Swashbuckling adventures of musketeers, and the villains (and darker things) they face on the field of battle, in darkened streets lined with shadows and betrayal, and in the courtly halls of power with its veneer of civility and deep-rooted corruption and cruelty will provide many opportunities for characters to face off against death in single duels, or in challenges against many honorless dogs who kill for coin.

Queen of Weapons

Capo Ferro shows the way~

It will allow players to walk the fine line between the refined methodologies of the sword and the queen of weapons which served the fighting man, and the up and coming technologies of gunpowder, whose power was known, but whose secrets had yet to be pried from the cold fingers of the slain.

If it is to be of worth, and provide real entertainment, it should be about more than just the deaths. If it is to be of worth, it should reach a level where the players can show, through the vehicle of their characters, how a real man comports himself in the face of death, and what heroism can mean.

All for one, and one for all.

Death where is thy sting:

The interesting thing about a life spent in constant proximity to death, is that it has a profound influence on how one behaves. Restricting that obsevation to just the spirit of the source material, we see our models comport themselves with a seemingly reckless abandon, a rakish look, and a devil-may-care enthusiasm for activity which sets the light of life ablaze with its energy and joy. Come Hell or high water, these men will live life to its fullest, suck the very marrow of life til the bones are as dry and impotent as the clutch of death they no longer fear, and brook no ill from that which has not earned the right to limit them!

They are men of indomitable spirit…  when they are not lolling in a drunken stupour, bemoaning the loss of income from another failed romance, that is. That, however, is the object of a different post than this.

Some inspiration:

The first places I am going to turn for a feast of inspiration in setting up a story for All for One, will of course be the printed word. Cyrano de Bergerac, the D’Artagnan Romances, and the Count of Monte Cristo. I will season to flavour with a dash of Solomon Kane, and for dessert, sate myself on the morality plays presented in such detail in the Arthurian legends. To understand these men, we must know what they did, and also – of what they dreamed.

For more serious study, I cannot recommend ARMA highly enough for its explorations of what a life of the sword actually entailed. While some of what they uncover does not gibe with the fun and enthusiasm of Errol Flynn, or the patently ridiculous moves of ‘Musketeer,’ a lot of what they have to offer will knock your socks off – for any period of swordplay. See for yourself~

A film resource that may have slipped your notice, but which I feel captures something special is Le Bossu/On Guard,  a 1997 French film starring Daniel Auteuil.  For the opening scene scene in a fencing salon it is worth the price of purchase, and the rest of the tale does not disappoint.

En Garde, Varlet!

Although the movies show us many examples of the heroes solving problems (and causing more) with their rapiers and main gauche, the literature of course goes to greater depth to show the infrequent, and sometimes laboured effort of deliberation, discussion, and discernment to which the heroes could descend to determine the distinct direction from which the diabolical and dolorous distress of the domain had been derived…. often over vast quantities of wine, and peppered with overly-emotional complaints; typically about women.

D’Artagnan, all too willing hero of his own series of inordinately popular romances which enabled his creator to live a lavish lifestyle when the royalties rolled in, was noted among the heroes of the pieces for his insight, wit, and intelligence. Athos, surely the musketeer in whom still waters ran deepest, is not the only one to note how clever the young man is. While this is all too true, it should not go without saying that despite this wealth of intellect, the boy still got himself embroiled in three duels in three hours with three of the best swords in the city, on but his second day in town.

There is a saying in our hobby that intelligence does not ensure social graces, but it is not that failing to which D’Artagnan falls, it is to another. His quickness to action, his deep-seated passion to right wrongs, and aid those to whom he has pledged his service, goads him to act before he has had time to think.

In that selfsame duel quoted at the top of this entry, D’Artagnan shows a remarkable quickness of wit, catching small cues from each of his adversaries which allows him to save their egos from further embarrassment, without even a moment’s pause. He can think, and think well – when the situation warrants it… but some things just goad him into unthinkingly rash action – and therein lies the adventure.

Share your die-fu!

Have you been running a game of All for One? I would very much like to hear how the stories are going, how the duels are being fought and won, how the larger battles versus the enemy, and the smaller battles versus the forces of darkness are being waged, and more – how Ubiquity is making it possible to do all of this with the panache, speed, and deadliness the subject deserves.

Who has stories for me?

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